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Beyond Pandora

Beyond simple curiosity, this is Thinking Too Much. If you're interested in philosophy and/or wild theories, you've come to the right place.

Location: Australia

Paddling somewhere between a mad scientist and an organisational artist. Indecisive, inconsistent and often incoherent.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How we construct reality


I think, therefore I am.
I am aware.
(What am I aware of?)
I am aware of being fed information.
I am aware of previously being fed information.
(I cannot remember not being fed information)
I am constantly being fed information.
The information I remember is similar to the information I am experiencing.
I trust my memory.
I have two functions that I am aware of - Memory and Sensation.
I am constantly being fed information.

I can sense other creatures that are very similar to my sense of myself. (People)
These creatures react in similar ways to me, so seem to sense the same things that I do.
These creatures communicate with me information that they claim to be memory. Often parts of it match my own memory, others are stored as uncertain memory - Imagination.
I can sometimes sense things that match things that have previously only been imagined. The imagination becomes memory and I can begin to trust in things that I have not already sensed - what I imagine.

I can not experience directly other's experiences and imagination, so I cannot integrate them into my own experience but i can to some extent integrate them into my imagination.

I trust what other people tell me because although some of what they say is unfamiliar, much of what they say matches my own experience, therefore I can believe their experiences as much as my own - although what i imagine of their experiences is different to what they actually experienced.

I see other things that are similar to me - people, and things that become similar to me - children, therefore I assume that I was once a child.
Children initially cannot communicate and do not seem to conceptualise in the same way that I do, but later they can, so they must have learned these things, and I must have learned these things.

Either I learned these things from without or I learned these things from within - Either I gained knowledge and sentience by observing the world or some higher power imparted the knowledge within me.

If I learned these things from without, then everything I know can be broken down to experiences through the senses. Also some capacity to store these experiences, developing a memory, developing a way to compare current with previous experiences. Imagination and senses are what I base knowledge upon.

If I learned these things from within...

Either way, there seems to be some quality that seperates humans from other beings in that humans are the only things seem to be aware in the same way as me. If consciousness comes from within, humans are favoured. Theoretically, a horse could begin to develop consciousness. If consciousness comes from without, humans are differently developed.


If I am not aware of something, I cannot understand it.

My knowledge of the world (awareness) is based on things that I am experiencing, things that I remember (previous experience), and things that I imagine (usually based on things that other people have experienced - eg I can believe in Japan, even though I have never been there, because people can describe it to me in terms of experience. I can therefore imagine it, and believe in it.)

I start off merely sensing. The now is my self.
I then develop memory. My memory and my sensations are my self.
I can also develop imagination.

If I can't imagine or remember something, and am not experiencing it, it is not part of my knowledge.

What things do not fit into these categories?


No-one has experienced unconsciousness - which is not to say that no one has ever been unconscious, but that no one can sense while unconscious (?) so cannot remember unconsciousness so cannot describe unconsciousness so unconsciousness cannot be imagined or integrated into a worldview.
Unconsciousness is unknowable.


Either I accept that there are things that will always remain unknowable, or I decide that they are unknowable because they do not exist. If I choose to take the latter path, it means I believe that my consciousness cannot stop existing. Unless I believe I am immortal, this means I believe that my consciousness transcends my body.

1. I can imagine being immortal, staying the way I am now forever, but physical evidence refutes the idea. I would have to believe that I am different to all other humans.
This means I could decide that I am not human - but again physical evidence refutes that idea.

2. I can sort of imagine consciousness transcending body, which physical evidence cannot prove either way.
Going with this would mean I should not trust sensation.

I tend towards the belief that consciousness is linked directly to the body - without one, the other does not exist. This is in opposition to the idea of a conscious soul.

There is more evidence in favour of my mortality, and perhaps of my consciousness not going on forever, so I accept that there are things that are unknowable - that are completely beyond my comprehension

3. I cannot imagine being dead, but I can believe that I will be dead. This means I should also be able to believe in many other things that I cannot imagine.
This means I should not rely on my own experience.

Death is unknowable.
(Dying is knowable)

"Either I believe in things I cannot imagine, or I believe I will never die."


We could believe that our consciousness is eternal and the world is illusory, despite being unable to experience anything outside the illusion;
Or we believe that our consciousness is not eternal, which means that we accept the destruction of our consciousness despite the fact that we can't comprehend not being conscious.
Either way, we believe in something we cannot imagine, let alone experience.


"The mind is real, merely creates the illusion of experience"

This implies a disconnection/discommunication between the conscious and unconscious mind. The unconscious mind literally creates reality and the conscious mind experiences it.
Because the conscious mind cannot control the subconscious mind or know what the subconscious mind is doing, the conscious mind has no way of knowing whether the world is an illusion or not. The question becomes irrelevant, because there is no difference.
The conscious mind treats the world it experiences as real.

(This would be different if we could prove the existence of the subconscious mind, the disconnection between it and the conscious mind and/or reconnect it with the conscious mind)

The only reason we have a concept of illusion vs. reality is that our experience/our senses can contradict itself/eachother.
Senses: Touch, Taste, Sight, Hearing, Smell.
(Plus imagination - our ability to picture something we haven't physically experienced. We can do this by receiving a description of the thing and relating it to things we have experienced previously. Belief is what we call trusting our sense of imagination.)
We think of ourselves in a stable reality when these senses give matching information - when we can experience things through all of the senses.
When the senses contradict eachother, reality becomes broken up according to our senses. We can see things we can't touch (eg, a rainbow), can feel things we can't see (eg, the wind). Yet we tend to believe that both the rainbow and the wind are real. We base reality on what is there, rather than what is absent - i.e., we trust that rainbows are real, even though our other senses tell us there is nothing there.
The sense of imagination is a different matter. If what our other senses tell us disagrees with what we imagine (i.e., if something isn't the way it was described), we tend to discard the image in favour of the experience. Probably due to the fact that image can change very easily.

(When we are told two things that contradict eachother, we choose to believe what best matches our own experience, or what best matches what we already believe.)

In this way, reality can be defined as what we experience through our senses in addition to what we imagine, except in the cases where image alone contradicts the other senses, in which case we trust our senses.
Illusion is trusting the imagination when the other senses contradict it.

By this definition, a person who claims that the world is an illusion and the reality is something beyond, is not adhering to reality - they are trusting to illusion.

The idea that there is more to life/existence/the universe than what we can experience is not living in illusion. Claiming that this idea is absolutely certain (and living accordingly) is living in illusion. In other words, being open to other possibilities is fine. Behaving as if those possibilities are real when there is no positive proof is illusion.

There is certainly more to life than what we *usually* experience/imagine. Certain drugs can change your mental state & your awareness. This new awareness could be considered a limited perversion of reality, else something closer to 'true' reality - or just a different awareness, some aspects highlighted and some dulled. Imagination, for instance, taking over your other senses.

There are states of consciousness - realms of experience - which I cannot possibly conceive without experiencing them.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scraps: Identity through popular culture

This is the start of an argument I'm not likely to finish:

Popular culture is the dominant point of reference through which people understand their lives. This is especially worrying considering the narrow range of expression offered by the media, compared to the variety expressed in real life.
If popular culture is seen as television drama, pop music and fashion, there are a number of groups excluded or marginalised from those areas, such as the elderly, the poor, and the foreign. Without any way to identify with popular culture, these groups must find other ways to understand their lives, set apart from the mainstream society.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The fall of Trinity in the Matrix Trilogy

The character of Trinity in the film The Matrix and its sequels The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions in many ways appears to be a subversive figure, a powerful woman who challenges traditional gender stereotypes. This essay shows, through an analysis of the narrative roles she plays – as action hero, as femme fatale, and as love interest – that the subversive power Trinity displays is, however, progressively removed over the course of the trilogy. It should be noted that this essay restricts itself to the portrayal of Trinity within the live-action movies, and so does not take into account evidence from other sources involving her character, notably The Animatrix collection and the video game, Enter the Matrix.

From the opening sequence of The Matrix, Trinity’s subversive potential is clear. ‘A little girl’, unarmed and alone, she quickly and efficiently kills a team of armed, male police officers, forcing us, as Geller points out, to speculate on the status of ‘girl’ in the film [2004, 14]. This opening scene casts Trinity’s character as an action hero, specifically challenging the sociobiological idea that aggression is a masculine trait [Van Krieken 2006, 306], as well as the ‘heterosexual mythology’ that women are in need of rescue [Geller 2004, 11]. As Wolmark [cited in Gillis 2005, 80] argues, in this first movie, Trinity’s capabilities as an action hero actually tend to outshine that of the male hero, Neo. Of particular note, Trinity saves his life by killing an Agent – a feat no one has ever achieved before (yet this is never given much attention by the other characters). Trinity also shows great skill with a number of technologies usually considered to be part of the masculine realm – computers, motorbikes, cars, helicopters, and, perhaps most significantly (due to their phallic symbolism), guns. Such proficiency challenges the idea that these skills can be considered masculine. In fact, a key moment in the movie shows that the action-hero skills displayed by all human characters have been ‘downloaded’ directly into their brains, thus revealing that such skills are not gender-specific.
Trinity retains her role as action hero in the sequels, however her power as such is continually undermined. Firstly, the near-immediate presentation of her death at the start of The Matrix: Reloaded projects through the rest of the movie her imminent failure as an action hero. Secondly, Neo’s ascension to the role of superhero makes her own actions all the more tame by comparison. Lastly, during the one action scene the two have outside the Matrix, Trinity is instantly captured by Bane and held as the damsel in distress, utterly unable to save herself – a weakness that costs Neo his eyes. Trinity’s action-hero powers apparently do not extend outside the Matrix – yet Neo’s do, as, even blinded, he takes on Bane and wins. As Trinity’s most significant gender challenges arise through her role as an action hero, this undermining of the role forces a severe change in the effectiveness of those challenges. It also implies that what really defines her, as a woman, is not what she does, but the relationships she has with men.

Trinity’s second role is as the femme fatale, the ambiguous woman, seductive, desirable, but dangerous – perhaps an appropriate meeting point between action hero and lover – however, it is also a role with a power loss ‘built in’. Her sexuality and mystique is clear at the beginning of the first movie – when she first meets Neo, she dresses relatively provocatively and whispers seductively in his ear about the mysteries of the Matrix. As the embodiment of the enigma of the Matrix itself, she represents that which Neo desperately wants, but cannot yet understand. In a similar vein, she later hints at the secret she keeps regarding a prophecy made to her by the Oracle. The mystique of the femme fatale is certainly a source of power, however as a narrative device she must inevitably be demystified, hence disempowered, by the hero [Alcoff, cited in Gillis 2005, 82]. Once Neo is removed from the Matrix and realises what it is, Trinity effectively loses all significance until the second half of the movie, when she re-establishes her mystique by hinting at the Oracle’s prophecy. Once this, in turn, is revealed, she is transformed into the “stereotypical selfless woman” [Haslam 2005, 106] for the duration of the trilogy. In addition, by withholding from Neo her fate as his lover, Trinity falls neatly into the gender stereotype provided by the sociobiological theory of women as ‘coy’, hiding their interest in order to find a quality mate [Van Krieken 2006, 306]. This is a prediction particularly relevant to Trinity as it has been prophesised that her ‘mate’ will be ‘The One’ - a man beyond the capabilities of other men. Likewise, her sexuality is also a source of power, yet this merely serves to reinforce gendered, heterosexual assumptions as it is only displayed in relation to Neo (and, to some extent, Cypher), thus defining her through her relationships with men. In the latter movies, Trinity’s particular kind of love for Neo tends to render this power moot, for while Neo would likely do anything for her, she never asks him to. Doane [cited in Gillis 2005, 79] explains these apparent contradictions in the position of power of the femme fatale by the idea that “[The femme fatale] is an ambivalent figure because she is not the subject of power, but its carrier.” Trinity, therefore, is the centre of power, the catalyst for action, yet she herself has none. This is never clearer than at the end of The Matrix: Reloaded, when Trinity, unable to save herself, falling to her death, is shown by the Architect to be the very thing that empowers/defines Neo, setting him apart from previous incarnations of the One. Finally, the taming or death of the femme fatale is no surprise, for as Doane [cited in Gillis 2005, 82] argues, “The power accorded to the femme fatale is a function of fears linked to the notions of uncontrollable drives, the fading of subjectivity and the loss of conscious agency… Her textual eradication involves a desperate reassertion of control on the part of the threatened male subject. She is not the subject of feminism but a symptom of male fears about feminism.” If the only appropriate progress of such a woman is her taming, then it is implied that the only appropriate role for a woman to play is one of subservience to her man.

Trinity’s final role in the trilogy is her relationship to Neo as lover. While her love and devotion to him is unquestionably returned, it is through this role that she can be seen to lose any sense of autonomy. In the first movie, Trinity’s developing relationship with Neo is not characterised by a loss of independence – in fact, she makes it clear that Neo is subservient to her when he attempts to keep her from his plans to rescue Morpheus:

NEO: What are you doing?
TRINITY: I’m coming with you.
NEO: No you're not.
TRINITY: No? Let me tell you what I believe. I believe Morpheus means more to me than he does to you. I believe if you are serious about saving him then you are going to need my help and since I am the ranking officer on this ship, if you don't like it then I believe that you can go to hell, because you aren't going anywhere else. [Wachowski and Wachowski 1998, 102]

This aspect of their relationship is completely reversed in The Matrix: Reloaded when Neo asks Trinity to stay out of a complicated plan to go to the Source (where he meets the Architect). She accepts, even though she clearly doesn’t understand why, and only changes her mind because Neo’s life becomes threatened. In a very real way, Trinity has become completely devoted to Neo, and he to her – however, while Neo must also struggle with the fate of humanity and his role as the One, Trinity’s singular narrative purpose is to support Neo. She takes no action in either of the sequels other than to do as he wishes, or to rescue him from his situation. In contrast to the various men in the film, she takes no position in matters of religion, warfare or politics, reinforcing the idea that such issues of high culture are not for women, who are best suited to the domestic sphere [Van Krieken 2006, 314]. Trinity’s loss of self due to her love for Neo can even be pinpointed in the movies as an almost physical transfer of power – after she kisses Neo at the end of The Matrix, her power and autonomy greatly diminish, while he moves from a death-state to superhero. When Neo kisses her at the end of the final movie, she dies.

Through the limited options provided by her narrative roles, Trinity clearly falls victim to some of the extremes of gender stereotyping – she is coy, subservient, helpless despite herself, lacks autonomy, confines herself to her domestic role and dies in the service of her lover. Her transformation from the first film to the third is dramatic and stark, following an apparently logical progression from action hero to damsel in distress; from an ambiguous threat to men, to a woman dependent upon them; and from an autonomous lover of a man, to a martyr for his cause. While this stereotypical sexism-run-rampant with regard to Trinity is not necessarily a reflection of the movies as a whole, her fall from gender challenge to gender stereotype is a strong argument in support of Haslam’s suggestion: that the story of the Matrix trilogy merely masquerades as an emancipation plot, while ultimately serving to reinforce the position of the dominant class [2005, 106].


Geller, T. L. 2004. Queering Hollywood's Tough Chick. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 25 (3): 8-34. (accessed June 6, 2007, from Project Muse database).

Gillis, S. 2005. Cyber Noir: Cyberspace, (Post)feminism and the Femme Fatale. In The Matrix Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded, ed. S. Gillis, 74-85. London: Wallflower Press.

Haslam, J. 2005. Coded Discourse: Romancing the (Electronic) Shadow in The Matrix. College Literature, 32 (3): 92-115. (accessed June 6, 2007, from Project Muse database).

Van Krieken, R., D. Habibis, P. Smith, B. Hutchins, M. Haralambos, M. Holborn. eds. 2006. Gender and Sexuality. In Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 3rd ed, 301-345. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia.

Wachowski, A. and L. Wachowski. 1998. The Matrix: Shooting Script. http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/the_matrix.pdf (accessed June 6, 2007)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Step Back In Time?

Hey all!
I recently caught my mind wandering along the lines of time travel, so I let it run loose. If you're interested in what would really happen if you moved at the speed of light away from a clock, check it out here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Don't worry, be happy!

I have a theory about the keys to happiness. Existence, Contentment, and Pleasure.
For Existence, you must have food, warmth, oxygen, shelter, and avoid predators.
For Contentment, you must be healthy (avoid sickness), and safe (avoid fear).
For Pleasure, you must have stimulation of some sort. Please the senses by experience, please the mind by learning.

Which is fair enough. But not everyone is suited to complete independence. It would involve growing or foraging or hunting for all your own food, being physically fit enough not only for food, but to avoid predators or defeat them. It would also involve being able to create warmth - fire, for example, and/or clothes. You'd also have to be trained in medicine. That's an awful lot of skill for one person to have, especially in these times.

What we have now is interdependence. We have groups of people assigned to creating enough food for the rest of the population, other groups assigned to clothes, others to shelter, to medicine, and so on.

But this also means that any individual living by this system needs to give something to the system. You give services, you receive money in order to pay for the services other people give to you that further your existence.

This actually means that helping others comes before helping yourself. You can't be happy unless you are stimulated, content, and existing, but you can't continue to exist unless others help you, and they don't generally do that unless you have money - which you generally receive from providing services to other people. You help people so you can continue to exist. You may even help other people to be find happiness, when you yourself are still struggling at the existence stage.

The best way to get out of this is to learn some self-support skills, but you have to exist in order to learn, and you have to help others in order to exist. So you have to support others in order to become self-supporting.

This is bizarre, and depressing, and humbling, and a little spiritual.

But what it means is that I need to stop thinking about what would make me happy, and start thinking about what I can do to make other people happy, because otherwise I may stop existing, and then I can't even be content, let alone happy.

If I'm lucky, the skills I can contribute will turn out to be skills I enjoy using, and then I can work on pleasure and existence at the same time.

How are you feeling now?

And... is there anything I can do to help?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


From Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Almost Everything":
'Think of the Earth's orbit as a kind of motorway on which we are the only vehicle, but which is crossed regularly by pedestrians who don't know enough to look before stepping off the verge. At least 90 per cent of these pedestrians are quite unknown to us. We don't know where they live, what sort of hours they keep, how often they come our way. All we know is that at some point, at uncertain intervals, they trundle across the road down which we are cruising at over 100,000 kilometres an hour.'
These 'pedestrians' are asteroids.
'Even a small asteroid - the size of a house, say - could destry a city. The number of these relative tiddlers in Earth-crossing orbits is almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands and possibly in the millions, and they are nearly impossible to track.
'The first one wasn't spotted until 1991, and that was after it had already gone by. Named 1991 BA, it was noticed as it sailed past us at a distance of 170,000 kilometres - in cosmic terms the equivalent of a bullet passing through one's sleeve without touching the arm.
'According to Timothy Ferris, writing in the New Yorker, such near misses probably happen two or three times a week and go unnoticed.'
'The arresting analogy that is always made is that the number of people in the world who are actively searching for asteroids is fewer than the staff of a typical McDonald's restaurant. (It is actually somewhat higher now. But not much.)'

The book is full of the fundamental facts of science, written in a way that is easy and enjoyable to read, full of odd characters, bizarre experiments and gripping facts like those above. If you've ever wanted to know more about the world, this is an excellent way to start.

Do it now. After all, you never now when the next asteroid might hit.

Friday, August 19, 2005


If someone asks me for help, and I can give that help without loss to myself, I should do it. Right?
So if someone asks me for money and I can afford it, I should give it to them.
Is what they do with the money any of my business?
Shouldn't I just trust that if they are desperate enough to ask for money then they will use it well?
I think the answer is yes, but only because I feel I should trust people. Whether the people are trustworthy is another matter.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Breaking The Rules

It's strange that humans spent so much time building rules out of nothing, and then find it amusing and novel when those rules are ignored.
I think most successful TV shows take full advantage of this fact (eg, Buffy)

Sparks Extinguished

Although I still think Sparking Mad was a good idea in theory, in practice I don't have enough oddball scientific ideas to keep it going, so I've reposted everything that was there here and deleted the other blog.

Orange Eye

(Orig 29 May 05)
Everyone who photographs people knows about the unfortunate 'red-eye' syndrome that spoils the unplanned photograph. I had a lot of this in the last set of photos I took, but I noticed one in particular that has orange eyes rather than the standard red.

While I know a very little about optics from first semester Physics, I can't put my finger on why this would be so.

So I decided to check it out.

After Googling, a microsoft site on red-eye removal/avoidance explains that red-eye is caused by a camera's flash reflecting off the blood vessels at the retina/back of the eye. A more scientific page (found at the site for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology), corrects this - it is a reflection of the pink photopigment in the photoreceptors of the retina. (Photoreceptors are "where the light is absorbed and transformed into the electrochemical signals used by the nervous system. This change is called TRANSDUCTION.")

I had fun for a while finding my blind spot on the same page, and I noticed that the description of various parts of the eye gives the index of refraction for both the lens in your eye and your cornea (clear external layer). Refraction is when light bends as it passes from one kind of physical medium (e.g., air) into another (e.g., water).

You've probably seen pictures where light is shone into a glass triangle, and comes out as a rainbow - because blue light bends more than red light. So my theory is that my friend's eye appears orange because when the light bounced off the back of her eye, it was bent and split like in the prism, showing an orange colour rather than red. This would probably only happen when the eye is at an angle to the camera, as my friend's was.

I haven't been able to find anything to support this, except for confirmation that the red eye effect is sometimes orange. I did find out in the process (here) that a cat's eyes will glow green rather than a human red-eye, and this is because cats and some other animals have extra reflective surfaces in their eyes which help them see light when we humans can't.

If anyone has any further light (sorry) to shed on this matter, I'd love to hear it!